It’s important to have sense of inspiration and passion about teaching young kids if you want to pursue an online early childhood education degree. As far back as the 1920’s, American educators began writing about a need for specialized teaching of very young children. They were concerned about the fact that infants, toddlers and pre schoolers learn skills and facts in a different way than older children. But teachers and parents were also becoming aware of how important it is for kids to learn social skills in a safe, loving environment so that later on, they can become not just successful students, but successful people.
An Important Specialty
Almost a century later, early childhood education is a fully accepted job specialization in just about every American school system. But the reasons to become a specialist in this area have not really changed that much. Experts generally define early childhood specialists as those who deal with children from birth to age 5 or 8. It’s one of the most formative times in a kid’s life, and can be gratifying work if you want to improve the life of the “total” student, working less on academics but more on the physical and cognitive growth, socialization and the emotional strength of the student. You can exert a positive and lasting influence on the young minds in your class, but it takes commitment – and stamina. Early childhood educators need to have a good deal of energy and patience to deal with a classroom of young children, which can be delightful but also very chaotic. A degree in early childhood education can qualify you to pursue your career not just in preschools or elementary schools, but in a wide variety of daycare centers (including corporate and smaller licensed in-home centers), camps, parks & recreation programs, after school programs and even museums. This is a specialty where an online early childhood education degree or other distance learning degree online is widely accepted by both public and private school employers.
Teaching of young children at the early stages of their development involves different instructional skills than grammar school. Pre-school programs in particular use special early learning strategies to help children accelerate their cognitive development as they play. Rudimentary concepts of language, science and math are introduced through a variety of storytelling exercises and games where children play at various roles. Kids learn problem solving through building block exercises, while team play gives them skill building at simply getting along with each other and resolving disagreements. At the kindergarten level, the focus on games becomes gradually less as skilled teachers develop an organized curriculum for more formalized learning math, science and other subjects, and tools to assess students’ progress.
Early Childhood Education Degrees For Employment
Many teachers get their first job in an early childhood teaching career in a licensed in-home daycare daycare center or other pre-school program. These can range from small, private in-home centers to higher end corporate centers that care for the children of employees only. Some will hire people with only a high school diploma, though the better and higher-paying ones prefer to hire those with an early childhood education certificate or an associates degree. Pre-school programs that have state funding have upped their requirements in the past few years, and many now require that at least the lead teacher in each class have some kind of specialized training in teaching young kids. Kindergartens, particularly public school programs, will generally only hire teachers if they have an associates or bachelors degree.
Key Skills You’ll Learn
There are many credible online early childhood degree programs that are widely accepted by school districts:
Education certificate programs are generally 25 – 30 credits, and allow you to get a state certificate, sometimes known as an “early education and care” certification or simply a more generalized “initial certificate” for all entry-level teaching programs in a state (some states call them permits rather than certificates). A good employment tip: get your first aid certification either before or during your studies for a certificate. Most daycare or before/after school programs are now required to have one professional on the premises who knows CPR, and having that skill can give you a leg up over other job candidates. Subjects you’ll study for a specialized certificate will generally include basics like introduction to early childhood ed, special needs children, child development, social growth of young children and often a college-level English course. Salaries you can earn in pre-school programs run anywhere from $18,000 to $25,000, considerably less than what public school kindergarten teachers make.
An online associate degree program in early childhood education will usually run from 60 – 70 credits, and include a mix of specialized courses like early childhood math, child psychology, family engagement, special education and instructional strategies, along with more generalized teaching subjects that will remain valuable to you even if you transfer to a different area of teaching later in your career. The associates degree normally takes two years to complete in a traditional school, though some students are able to complete it more quickly through an online degree program.
Bachelor’s degree programs in early childhood take anywhere from 120 – 130 credits to complete, and involve a mix of teaching specific courses and generalized liberal arts courses designed to prepare you for a variety of more senior career options inside or outside teaching. If you already have an associates or certificate-type degree, most online schools will allow you to transfer the credits you’ve already earned toward your bachelor degree program.
An early childhood bachelor degree program online can qualify you for higher-paying jobs in public schools. At this level a degree may focus on a variety of specialties. Some train teachers to more at parenting and the environment of families rather than on just the student. Courses will be a mix of skill based subjects like computer applications for children, infant and toddler environments, child nutrition, along with more theoretical topics like child development leadership and emergent literacy. Many schools will also offer you the option to get credits in things like accounting and small business management, in case your ambition is to open a childcare-related business of your own.
A master’s degree in early childhood education is the next step if you wish to move into supervisory jobs, while a PhD degree program will qualify you to become a college professor, and teach the specialty to other developing teachers.
Schools Offering Early Childhood & Elementary Education Degrees Online
A private Christian school that has grown into one of the world’s largest provider of online degree programs. The school offers a very wide range of Associates, Bachelor’s and Masters degree programs in:
AA Early Childhood Education
BS Early Childhood Education Interdisciplinary Studies
Pacific Oaks College
Private non-profit school located on Pasadena, California, with about 1,000 students in both campus-based and online courses.
B.A. Early Childhood Education – Including credential to teach disabled students
B.A. Early Childhood Education
Large private school offering online degrees at a relatively moderate price for a school with strong name recognition across the country.
M.Ed. in Elementary Education (leads to initial teacher licensure)
M.Ed. in Elementary Education (does not lead to initial teacher licensure)
University of Southern California
Large private school founded in 1880, with a national reputation.
Master of Arts in Teaching – Elementary Multiple Subject teaghing
St. Thomas University
M.S. Elementary Education